Italian Culture

Are You Sinking Venice?

'Tied Into Me' is a documentary that explores a ubiquitous question "Is Venice Sinking?" through the intimate lens of real-life adventure. Daryl Smith is an Irish expat racing to save his sunken houseboat after the 2019 floods in Venice, Italy. Can he save his dreams and his beloved boat Gina?

It was November 11th, the day after my 46th birthday. Paolo and I were sitting outside La Sete, one of our favorite Bacaro in Venice, celebrating and contemplating. What would a second year of living in Italy bring? At that moment the answer was simple. Another round of Prosecco and Cicchetti. An hour later perfectly content and slightly buzzed I pulled out my iPhone to check my email.

Subject: Tied Into Me Documentary. Curious, I clicked.

“Hello,
This is Caterina Tarducci, producer for the documentary Tied Into Me which tells the inspiring story of an Irish man putting every possible effort into recovering his sunken houseboat after the most violent flood occurred in Venice in 2019.”

Looking around as if my evil iPhone gave up my location, reason finally caught up with instinct. The timing of Caterina’s email was purely coincidental yet it served as the catalyst for us to connect and ultimately this article.

Documentary Explores the Question is Venice Sinking?

Tied Into Me is a feature-length documentary about an Irish man named Daryl Smith who moved to Venice, Italy to live on a houseboat. Like so many, Daryl fell in love with Venice after just one visit. However, unlike most Daryl bravely threw caution to the wind, packed up his life in Ireland, and moved to Venice without a support network or a robust financial safety net. Tied Into Me dives into Daryl’s story as he attempts to recover his houseboat from the bottom of the Venetian Lagoon after it succumbs to the November 2019 flood and the worst tides to hit Venice, Italy in 50 years.

Without further ado, the Official trailer for Tied Into Me.

Tied Into Me Official Trailer | Video of the Realities of moving to Venice, Italy as a foreigner

After screening Tied Into Me I sat down for an interview with the co-producers Caterina Tarducci and Riccardo Sartori. The film and our chat left me with more questions than answers. Turns out that’s a good thing.

Am I Causing Venice to Sink?

That’s not a typo. Am I causing Venice to sink was Riccardo’s answer when I asked “What’s your take on the question is Venice Sinking?”

“Climate change is a real thing. It’s happening, we shouldn’t be discussing if it’s happening or not. What we need to talk about is how to adapt or to change our habits. We’re not dead yet. So we need to be the ones to make changes. Instead we need to ask ourselves ‘what am I doing that is causing Venice to sink.'”

Riccardo Sartori

Caterina and Riccardo understand the power of storytelling. Polar bears on ice caps might grab global warming headlines but they aren’t personal. Most of us will never see a polar bear or an ice cap in our lives. Yet watching Daryl fight for his home without the funds needed to save it? Now that’s the kind of personal fear most of us can relate to. Daryl’s story makes climate change personal.

Before the flood, Daryl lived a simplistic life making ends meet as an English teacher. Tied Into Me documents his struggle to get back to that simplicity. Without deep pockets or a support system in Italy, Daryl faces several setbacks in his attempt to save Gina his beloved houseboat. Some at the hands of the Venetian community.

Taking a Risk & Following Your Dreams

Tied Into Me doesn’t shy away from the fact that Daryl took a risk in moving to Italy. Nor does it hide the fact that he’s living on a razor’s edge financially and help from the Venetian community does not come cheap or easy. There are several moments where viewers are torn between rooting and fearing for Daryl. That mix of emotions left me wondering, what it was like as documentary filmmakers for Caterina and Riccardo to watch Daryl’s journey unfold in Venice.

Daryl (Left) moved to Venice, Italy only to lose his houseboat in the 2019 floods.
Daryl (Left) moved to Venice, Italy only to lose his houseboat in the 2019 floods.

ALOR Italy “As filmmakers what did it feel like to watch Daryl hit so many setbacks trying to rescue his houseboat in Venice?”

Riccardo “Honestly, it made me mad at the people of Venice. He [Daryl] was being betrayed.”

Caterina “In the scene with the bucket, I was really worried about him. Then when the first group of men disappeared I was angry. I felt like they treated Daryl in a way they wouldn’t another Venitian. I was thinking you can’t treat people like this just because they don’t speak Italian well! It felt unfair.”

Personally this is one of the most successful elements of Tied Into Me. It’s a documentary. It’s not fantasy and it’s not fiction. While Hollywood romanticizes moving to Italy as idyllic, Tied Into Me shares the realities many expats face as lo straniero (the stranger) when moving to Italy. Expats are outsiders. Which makes facing the challenges life (and in Daryl’s case nature) throws at you all that much more complicated and isolating. As an American expat living in Italy I can say first hand that yes, moving to Italy has its rewards. Yet like most of life’s great rewards, chasing la dolce vita does come with risks.

Risk is a big part of what bonded Daryl, Caterina, and Riccardo into friends during the filming of Tied Into Me. While Caterina and Riccardo saw early signs of success when their first film 50 Liters Life was acquired by STV, ERP Greece, and Netflix their path as filmmakers was not a given.

  • Filmmakers Caterina Tarducci and Riccardo Sartori in discussion on the set of Tied Into Me Documentary in Venice, Italy
  • Filmmakers Caterina Tarducci and Riccardo Sartori behind the scenes on the set of Tied Into Me in Venice, Italy
  • Filmmakers Caterina Tarducci and Riccardo Sartori on set of Tied Into Me in Venice, Italy
  • Filmmakers Caterina Tarducci and Riccardo Sartori documenting aqua alta in Venice, Italy for the documentary Tied Into Me
  • Filmmakers Riccardo Sartori
  • Filmmakers Caterina Tarducci documenting aqua alta in Venice, Italy for the documentary Tied Into Me
  • Filmmakers Riccardo Sartori documenting aqua alta in 2019 in Venice, Italy.
  • Sunken houseboat location in Venice, Italy

Caterina and Riccardo themselves are a young, ambitious couple who met as students in Florence, Italy. Riccardo went on to work at a newspaper while Caterina became an Assistant Researcher focused on the impact of climate change on agriculture. Jointly they agreed they didn’t want to work themselves to death in corporate life. When they decided to take on the challenge of helping people through communicating a message as filmmakers, they had to go it alone.

“This has been the hardest period of our lives. When we left our jobs no one was supportive in our families, a few friends were, but most were not.”

Caterina Tarducci

By the very nature of the medium, documentary filmmakers have no way of knowing what the outcome of the story they are telling will be. With Tied Into Me, Caterina and Riccardo took a risk. On their own careers and on Daryl’s story. Instead of being a harbinger of doom about global warming, Tied Into Me connects the dots between life choices and climate change.

Topics from chasing the Italian dream of la dolce vita, to minimalism to the risks that come with transforming everyday life into an adventure are explored. I would argue that with Tied Into Me Caterina and Riccardo shift the narrative to better questions. They take one of the most ubiquitous climate change questions the world collectively googles “Is Venice sinking?” and make it personal. Could climate change impact my dreams for the future if I do nothing?

Did Daryl’s risk of moving to Italy on a houseboat pay off? Was he able to save his beloved houseboat Gina? You’ll have to watch the film to find out! Tied Into Me is currently being submitted to Film Festivals around the globe. Additionally, Caterina and Riccardo are working on plans for direct support and screening parties. For now you can watch the first ten minutes of the film and sign up to receive updates on the premiere on the official Tied Into Me site. I’ll be sure to share updates from Caterina and Riccardo as well right here on ALOR Italy. Subscribe below!

6 comments

  1. Thanks Brandy for putting it all together and writing this amazing article. You perfectly described the story and caught the crucial points!! Filming “Tied into me” taught us a lot both professionally and personally. We knew better Venice discovering a complex city where one person had the courage to live differently, on his boat. What’s happened in Venice in November 2019 is unfortunately one of the symptoms of climate change.

  2. Interesting subject in many ways! Venice, boats, locals, expats, an Irish man leaving his country …. I’ve been there in the craziest ways!
    I once dated an Irishman who came to America and helped him get a job, which led to a life long friendship , his US citizenship and his dream to become an architect full filled.
    I worked professionally in yachting and met my future Italian husband.
    Venice was my first Italian love.
    I ended up in Italy, for several years, not planned.
    I’ve had conversations with the owner of one of the top restaurants in Venice about the love hate relationships with the tourists, large cruise ships, which my husband was involved with. So many folks don’t realize many of these giant cruise ships are built one hour north in Monfalcone where my husband was raised and had begun his nautical career.
    The argument of large ships, built in Italy, the history of sailing and Italy.
    I hope to follow this and ultimately see the finished film.
    The name Gina also plays out to me.
    What a crazy life sometimes.

    1. Hi Alison! I’m happy you stopped by and even happier there are points of interest for you in the article. I was lucky to screen an early cut of the full documentary and am very exited for more people to be able to see the full film. It was an honor to speak with the filmmakers too! What an interesting life you have had so far! Now I’m curious which restaurant owner you’ve befriended in Venice. I’m always looking to find more delicious spots to visit when in Venice. What a city indeed. It has its own pace and rhythm which I truly enjoy. Where did you end up living in Italy?

      1. Al Covo was the restaurant. If memory serves me the wife is an American transplant. I had a nice discussion with the owners after a wonderful lunch about the cruise ships and tourists. The owners are not my personal friends.
        I lived in Ronchi de Ligonari .

    1. Hi Ilene! So kind of you to stop by and take a read. It was a lot of fun to dig into their story a bit. Sent you a quick email BTW. It’s been too long (a colpa mia).

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